Gene Logsdon: Occupy Absentee-Owned Farms

The Contrary Farmer

I know something I would much rather occupy than Wall Street. I wonder if the typical young critic of the moneychangers realizes where the wealth that drives Wall Street comes from. How much of it, for example, resides in the land out here in corn and soybean country that is owned by wealthy people who have never set foot on it? A typical if somewhat fictionalized example is Mrs. Petunia Luckybirth who inherited 1200 acres of good Illinois prairie simply because she slid out of the right womb at the right time (as a friend puts it) 84 years ago, but who long ago moved to California and married a man wealthy in his own right. He left her with a million dollar mansion and about 3 million in his own investments when he passed away a few years ago.

Her Illinois farmland is worth some $9,000 an acre at the moment and earns her about $24,000 a year in rental payments which she (actually her lawyers) has been investing dutifully in the stock market at an average return of around 6% over the years which means it about doubles the money every ten years. Industrial corn growers farm her land. She has never had to spend a penny of her farm income. She has never thought of selling it. One thing her father and grandfather had drummed into her head: never sell farmland. It is the best long term investment there is.

What her entire current net worth amounts to is hard to say, but if suddenly her farmland disappeared, she wouldn’t even know it until someone told her. She would have a hard time finding it if she did go back to her roots because she has been away so long all the old landmarks are gone. Even on the county plat books, her farmland is no longer listed under her name but under an investment company her lawyers cooked up to shield her from nosy people like me who used to be able to use plat maps to figure out how much land a farmer owned.

I don’t want to sound critical of Petunia because she is a nice person and gives generously to charity. I should know. Many years ago when I realized that the only way I would ever own a thousand acres of good farmland would be to marry a Luckybirth, I dated two of them, not really for that reason but it crossed my mind. That didn’t work out, thank the Lord, but they were nice girls and still are. Also one of my best friends, now passed away, was a Luckybirth, real name Craig Bowman. He inherited farmland big time. When I would complain to him about the wealthy classes and the unfairness of life, he would look abjectly at me and say rather plaintively: “I can’t help it because I was born rich.” Then he would add, significantly: “Inheriting land is not the whole story. You still have to be smart and work hard to hold on to it.”

But I still wonder what all those people who want to occupy Wall Street would do if they understood how inherited wealth building up over time by inflationary demand, manipulated money interest and tax deductions for the wealthy are the real driving force of Wall Street. Those stock brokers and traders are mere serfs of the investment industry. If those demonstrators knew about Petunia Luckybirth, wouldn’t they decide that it would be a whole lot more effective to occupy absentee-owned farmland especially in cases like hers where her lifestyle or wellbeing would not be hurt one penny’s worth?

Since land reform has been one of the moving forces of human history, how long will it be before that happens? Occupying farmland would certainly be more fruitful than occupying Wall Street. Wall Street is an inflated windbag of pretend money. Petunia, or at least her money managers, knows what kind of wealth it really pays to occupy.